U.S. Water News Online
DENVER -- This fall Denver Water will have to release
enough water to supply more than 50,000 homes and send it down the
Colorado River to Western Slope users.
Under a long-standing agreement with the federal government,
Denver Water, the state's largest utility, must make up the
difference whenever the federally-owned Green Mountain Reservoir
doesn't have enough water. This fall, the amount it owes is 26,439
acre feet of water, an amount equal to almost 10 percent of what
Denver Water uses each year.
The transfer comes as Denver Water board members consider lifting
watering restrictions and drought surcharges on its 1.2 million
customers in the metro area. Earlier this summer, the board voted to
add an extra watering day, allowing residents to water their lawns
three times a week.
Marc Waage, Denver Water's water resource engineer, said the board
has taken the Western Slope payback into consideration in its plans.
After the water is transferred, assuming normal weather, Denver
Water's 10 reservoirs will be at 75 to 80 percent of capacity by Oct.
1. That is much better than level two years ago during the depth of
the drought, he said.
"We're just trying to balance the need to keep water in our
reservoirs to protect against the continuation of the drought with
not overdoing the restrictions on our customers," Waage said.
The ongoing drought has left Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit
County short for the third time in four years. Under the federal
agreement, Denver Water can keep water in Dillon Reservoir that would
normally go to Green Mountain Reservoir, but, in the dry years, it
must reimburse Green Mountain.
This will be the seventh time since 1964 that Denver Water has had
to transfer water to make up for low levels.
The situation could have been even worse but Xcel Energy didn't
require Denver Water to send extra water down the Colorado River to
help power a hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Springs. The plant was
off-line for repairs this year, allowing Denver Water to keep an
extra 30,000 acre feet of water.
There has also been reduced demand for lawn watering because of
more frequent rainfall this summer.
However, State Engineer Hal Simpson said the conditions at Green
Mountain Reservoir shows what happens without a heavy snowpack.
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